ITV eyes World Cup lift after missing audience goal

BROADCASTER ITV has pinned its hopes on next month’s World Cup in Brazil to help claw back lost viewers after its audience share fell short of target during the first quarter.

ITV is hopeful that the World Cup in Brazil next month will kickstart its viewing figures. Picture: Getty
ITV is hopeful that the World Cup in Brazil next month will kickstart its viewing figures. Picture: Getty

Shares in the firm, which is home to hit shows such as Broadchurch and Downton Abbey, dropped 6.2 per cent after it admitted that viewing figures had slipped and revenue growth missed City expectations.

The group also saw more than 22.5 per cent of shareholders vote against its remuneration plans at today’s annual meeting, following the revelation in March that chief executive Adam Crozier’s pay package almost trebled to more than £8 million last year.

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Crozier said he was confident that advertising revenues would jump by 12 to 13 per cent in the current quarter thanks to a stronger programme schedule and the football tournament, which kicks off on 12 June.

The Scots-born former Royal Mail boss added: “While ITV family share of viewing has been lower than expected so far this year, we have confidence in our strong schedule to come, including the football World Cup in June.”

Total external revenues for the three months to 31 March grew 2 per cent to £585m, falling short of the 4 per cent rise analysts had pencilled in. Takings at its ITV Studios production arm dropped 4 per cent as business was hit by the timing of programme releases.

The group’s share of the television audience dipped to 21.6 per cent in the quarter, down from 23.4 per cent a year earlier, but Amritpal Panesar, senior trader at Accendo Markets, said: “With shows like Britain’s Got Talent in full swing and regular Coronation Street, with its avid fan base, ITV should see a positive next few months. The company will need to address how it can maintain this momentum after the World Cup though.”

ITV suffered the biggest fall in the FTSE 100 after today’s trading update and its shares ended the session down 11.9p at 179.1p.

The group is four years into a five-year turnaround plan, which has seen it boost its production arm in a bid to become less reliant on advertising revenue. Next month brings the launch of ITV Encore – the group’s first pay TV channel – while lifestyle station ITVBe will follow later in the year, its first free-to-air channel in almost a decade.

ITV Encore will be available to Sky subscribers as part of a wider four-year partnership between the two firms. The channel, to be included in customers’ existing packages, will initially feature repeats of successful dramas such as Lucan and Vera, but original shows featuring “big name” stars have been promised for next year.

Earlier this month, ITV bought 80 per cent of US production firm Leftfield, which makes Pawn Stars and Real Housewives of New Jersey, for £212m.

Over the past 18 months the firm has snapped up a number of US production companies, including Gurney Productions, High Noon Entertainment and Thinkfactory Media.

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Despite a relatively slow start, management remains confident for the full year. The coming football World Cup is expected to boost advertising revenues, and the group’s push to acquire content and reduce its reliance on volatile advertising has taken a significant step forward.”

But analysts at Citi said the second-quarter guidance for advertising revenue was just short of its 14 per cent forecast and the broadcaster had “some work to do for the remainder of the year to get back on the front foot”.